By Max Clarke

This morning the Government’s Office for National Statistics published the welcome news that numbers of unemployed saw their biggest drop in over a decade.

Within the positive news, however, a number of more troubling patterns emerge. Following are a number of comments discussing various aspects of the UK's changing employment picture:

“The number of people unemployed for over 24 months increased by 39,000 to reach 385,000,” noted Financial Skills partnership CEO, Liz Field, “adding to earlier fears of a growing aspiration gap highlighted by the Prince’s Trust report which revealed that more than a quarter from poor homes feel that ‘people like them don’t succeed in life’.”

“Today’s jobs figures showing another increase in the number of people in work and fewer unemployed will cheer the Chancellor of the Exchequer ahead of his speech at the Mansion House this evening,” commented Dr John Philpott, Chief Economic Adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

“Signs that wage pressure is moderating in the face of higher inflation will also come as good news to the Bank of England. This should counter the case for a hike in interest rates later in the year.

“The only obvious concerns are that job vacancies appear to be drying up, while the number of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance is clearly on the rise, although the latter increase owes much to changes in the benefit regime and should not in itself be taken as a sign that the jobs market is starting to weaken.

“Another potential worry is the ongoing scale of job losses in the public sector. Public sector employment excluding the nationalised banks fell by 135,000 in the financial year 2010-11. This is many times bigger than the initial Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast at the time of last June’s emergency budget and closer to CIPD estimates at that time. If the OBR forecasts for the period to 2015 as a whole prove similarly optimistic the impact of public sector job cuts on overall unemployment could be significantly worse than the Government currently expects.”

Prominent business organisation, the Confederation of British Industry's employment director, Neil Carberry commented as follows:

"It is good news that unemployment figures have fallen, with the private sector creating jobs. We hope this will continue in the coming months, but we still have a serious problem with long-term unemployment and inactivity. We need to tackle the structural causes of unemployment to get the UK working."

Public Sector union, UNISON chief Dave Prentis also commented, stating that the ‘small drop’ in unemployment does not address the growing numbers of benefits claimants and increasing public sector redundancies.

Said Prentis: ““The figures show that Government’s cuts have led to another 24,000 public sector workers losing their jobs. Economic inactivity has gone up and the private sector is still weak. It is no position to create the number of jobs needed to stop thousands more public sector workers joining the dole queues.”


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